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Carrick's Berry brothers pose twin threat on Belfast Royal Academy

Even the coach can't tell the brothers apart

By Jonathan Bradley

Rugby playing brothers are a relatively common affair throughout the game's history but, ahead of their Danske Bank Schools' Cup clash with Belfast Royal Academy tomorrow morning, a pair of siblings in the Carrickfergus Grammar back-row are still prompting double takes.

Identical twins Kris and Reece Berry - both flankers - have been confusing opposing coaches, as well as their own, for years and are an integral part of the County Antrim school's side looking to make a rare foray into the competition's third round.

Kris admits that, while he is more than used to playing alongside Reece, it can still spark confusion for the opposition.

The Upper Sixth pupil laughed: "Yeah, you'll always get the opposition's number 8 having to take a second look.

"For us, we're used to it. We've been playing together since our dad took us to Carrick Rugby Club in P3.

"Playing rugby is something that's definitely bonded us together and it would be great if the team could go on a run.

"The way we're playing, we're confident that we can put in a good game.

"They're going to be a good side but, for us, we don't focus on the school that we're playing, we just try to look at our own game and what we need to do."

Carrickfergus coach Neal Kennedy - who admits that even after seven years of teaching and coaching, he still struggles to tell the twins apart - has a host of talented players at his disposal including a centre partnership that is comprised of Christian Robinson, also a notable athlete with the City of Lisburn club, and captain Jake Porter (pictured below with his coach) who leads the side in only his second year at the school since joining from Downshire.

Thanks to a forward pack who established their dominance early on, and a backline unit that pressed home the advantage, they ran out comfortable 22-3 winners against Lurgan College in the last round, but Kennedy admits that BRA will be a different proposition.

The north Belfast school won the competition outright for the only time in their history in 1997, and a team that contained current Ulster players Iain Henderson and Stuart Olding were beaten finalists in 2010, but success has not come in recent years and they were knocked out in this round by Rainey Endowed last season.

Despite the struggles of tomorrow's opponents last season, Kennedy said: "I'll be hoping that the boys can take a bit of confidence from the win in the last round but we know that it will be a step up this weekend.

"Playing a side the calibre of BRA is always going to be difficult.

"They're going to be full of good players and they'll be coming into the game fresh having not played in the previous round," Kennedy added.

"Maybe that will help us, the experience of already having got that first game out of the way."

The two schools met at this stage in 2013 - incidentally again after Carrickfergus had beaten Lurgan College at home in the first round - with the Belfast side running out comfortable 41-6 winners.

Kennedy, however, feels his squad - that contains several members of the team who defeated Rainey Endowed School in the Medallion Bowl final of 2012 - have progressed a considerable degree since then. "I think the experience we have in the squad is a real benefit," he said.

"We probably had 11 Upper Sixth pupils playing in the last round so they've got the experience of playing in the competition and know that it's a step up. Saying that, the one or two Year 12s and Year 13s that we do have are good players as well, and they've helped bring something fresh to the team."

The Ulster branch will be in attendance tomorrow with the draw for the third round of the competition taking place at the school directly after the final whistle.

What would it mean to Kennedy to be in the hat come 12 noon?

"We're always going to take it one round at a time but it would be great to make the third round," he added.

"It's somewhere that we haven't been in a while.

"In recent seasons when we've been able to win our first game, we've struggled in the next round.

"The likes of Methody, Inst and Ballymena all come in at that stage and they're teams that don't tend to be on our fixture list so it would be a good test."

Belfast Telegraph

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